I always envisioned myself as either being a musician that travels around the country in an old beat up van living off chips, fast-food burgers and cheap beer or working at an innovative startup tech company in Cambridge. You might be thinking those are two completely different paths altogether, but there are more similarities than you think between these two career paths.
I spent more than 10 years chasing my dream of being a professional musician while simultaneously getting my undergraduate and masters degrees in business. In business school, I studied a wide variety of business functions from finance to supply chain management to marketing. Graduation came and went, my dreams of being a professional musician slowed down, and I ventured out into the “real-world” never thinking that I would start my career in sales as a Business Development Representative. This still boggles my mind, because sales was the one area that my school curriculum had not touched upon, but it was (and is) where the greatest opportunity and money was (and is).
When I started as a Business Development Representative (BDR) at a small tech firm in Boston, I had limited professional experience other than a marketing internship and a couple of miscellaneous restaurant industry jobs. Needless to say, I had burning ambitions to start a company and needed my first job to provide a fast track for my personal development as a business professional. As a BDR, I was responsible for identifying markets and finding new business opportunities, and then reaching out to potential customers (called prospects in the business world) to see if they were a good fit for the services my company provided. This sounds simple but a variety of different complex things go into a job like this, especially at a young company. Often times, I was speaking with high-level executives who were in the C-suite at Fortune 1000 companies. When I started, I was nervous, but as I became more well versed with the complex software service I was selling, I became in-tune with what these potential clients needed. My day-to-day activities consisted of using a variety of different tools to generate data to determine what industry and potential prospects I should focus my efforts on. As I listened to what prospects were saying on the phone, tracked and defined incoming data, I then created content that was tailored to the prospects I was reaching out to. What I was doing every day was quite literally the convergence of sales and marketing in one role, with a bit of business operations mixed in. I was developing a critical skill set that most entry-level professionals don’t get until much later in their careers.
Fast-forward to a couple years now, and I am the Head of Operations and on the founding team of a startup utilizing the skills I learned from my first entry-level job everyday. High-level professionals from a variety of different industries agree that the BDR role is a great place to start your career. Steve McKenzie, VP of Sales at InsightSquared said that “ the BDR role is like a Sales Apprenticeship. It is a foundation off which to build a business career. You learn how to work hard, how to handle rejection, what metrics are important, and how to master business communication”. Learning how to sell effectively not only translates to a variety of different outlets in business, but also in life.
Starting in sales and business development you will learn:
- The revenue generation process
- How to sell product in today’s customer-centric business environment
- How to communicate with high-level executives
- How to track and define data to make better informed decisions
- How to familiarize yourself with the inner workings of a company
The skill of learning how to sell can be translated to just about any facet of life, from selling yourself in interviews to selling your significant other on which restaurant you should eat at. I wish I knew how to sell effectively in the beginning of my music career. Who knows, maybe some music executive would have heard my band and I’d be in a big extravagant bus cruising around the country right now.